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Broadcast Games: Recent Mainstream Television Gaming Coverage

December 15, 2005 By Glenn Turner

Over the month or so there have been a number of mentionable game-centric television moments, apart from Xbox 360 launch reports and 'shocking' news coverage on the evils of video games. Here are a few moments I was surprised the standard game websites and blogs didn't pick up on:

Sunday Morning & video games as the New Generation of Entertainment

For those that refuse to wake up before noon, Sunday Morning is a long-lived magazine-format television show on CBS. It normally centers around more culturally conservative issues of interest, such as the anniversary of American Gothic (the painting, not the short-lived television series) and restaurant criticism, but this week they used the Xbox 360 launch as well as the lackluster G.A.M.E. festival to examine gaming as the next generation of entertainment, and for the most part they a decent job. They looked at the medium more abstractly, rather than break the report into a console-by-console look they discussed general trends (the increased age of gamers) as well as the oft-discussed budgetary concerns and film industry parallels. The feature had a smattering of comments from Smartbomb authors Heather Chaplin & Aaron Ruby, both at G.A.M.E. (sadly I missed the 60 Minutes special) as well as a look at game design at the University of Southern California's Interactive Media Division, which included a brief discussion about the recently-buzzed high-concept game Cloud.

While it was hardly a comprehensive look at gaming, it was a steady, sane portrayal of the medium. Sure, there were flaws (for instance, the show's transcript lists Cloud as Clouds, and the misleading 'games make more upon release than Hollywood blockbuster' statistic was paraded out), but I've spent my time in worst ways than watching this segment.

A Very Dead Zone Christmas Loves Ratchet: Deadlocked

Speaking of wasting time, I'm not even sure why I persist in watching The Dead Zone, but my television viewing faux pas are probably best left to our engrossing forum. In addition to being gag-inducingly saccharine-sweet, this episode of The Dead Zone featured some of the more blatant, pandering product placement I've seen in some time: mention upon mention of Ratchet: Deadlocked, the latest in Sony's Ratchet & Clank series. Product placement is nothing new and now that DVRs are gaining ground in living rooms, it's becoming more and more popular as a way for television & cable stations to slip in commercials that a thirty-second skip button can't block for you. While most of the time the product placement is relatively transparent and (mostly) unobtrusive, this was just ridiculous. From the never-ending direct references to the game (always Ratchet: Deadlocked which really doesn't roll off the tongue) to the laughably long line of parents waiting for the latest shipment of Ratchet: Deadlocked games to arrive, the attempt on Sony and the show's behalf to make the game come off as something it isn't (namely, a scarce game that parents will be fighting over like Cabbage Patch Dolls) would be laughable if it weren't so shameless. No doubt that some children wouldn't mind finding the latest Ratchet game under their Christmas tree but parents aren't going to be queuing up at the local Gamestop for a copy. Nowadays I simply don't know what's better, fake products in fictional series that reek of imitations of the current fad, or desperate marketing attempts by companies trying to sell a few hundred more units of their latest tepid item.

MTV's game0RZ Week

Okay, so this is somewhat dated but at the behest of Mr. LeFeuvre I did catch a few of their game-oriented programs. The first was the pseudo-infomercial/documentary This Sims Life, a brief look at a handful of ardent The Sims fans. It's an intriguing concept: observe the folks who are engrossed in this life-sim, but ultimately the show comes off as insubstantial and vapid. It's not necessarily the fault of the subjects (although they're all somewhat well-to-do youths), but the documentary fails to scratch the surface any deeper than an interviewee's likes, dislikes and living environment. Even examining at how a baptist college girl reconciles her sadistic tendencies through The Sims comes off as flippant and trite, instead of something deeper.

MTV's next step into the gaming waters was a look at those how play games professional via another in their True Life documentary series. True Life: I'm a Professional Gamer follows several youths as they live out their lives, button pressing for bucks. At least MTV realized that, for the most part, watching other people play games competitively is about as exciting as watching snow melt; gaming moments were kept to brief glimpses and action was typically summarized by the gamer instead of dryly shown. The subjects include gamer Tsquared facing off in several Halo 2 tournaments, KillaOR (Super Smash Bros. Melee gamer extraordinaire) as he signs with Major League Gaming, and all-girl group GX3 as they compete in France at the Electronic Sports World Cup.

Sadly, again MTV seems to miss the mark - there's really very little going on in the actual matches themselves, save for a brief verbal spat between one amateur trash-talker and Tsquared, and the bulk of the documentary appears to have been shot during practice. The highlights of I'm a Professional Gamer come with the small glimpses of KillaOR organizing underground matches, showcasing the length a gamer will go to pursue his or her interest in gaming. Everything else feels routine, like you're watching college students study, complete with the supportive girlfriend falling asleep while everyone else is cramming. Sure, it may be an untarnished look at the life of a pro-gamer, but show us something more about their culture, or something slightly more engaging about the players themselves.

Otherwise, the rest of the airwaves (especially MTV's) have been absolutely cluttered with news about how the Xbox 360 is the 'it' item this holiday season, Xbox 360 advertisements and yes, even Xbox 360 scarcity reports. So while these shows and televised features were perhaps not the finest of video game oriented broadcast (or basic cable) entertainment, at least they weren't about the Xbox 360.

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#1 Sir_KilIalot Dec 24, 2005 11:05am

if MTV actually makes something that is in depth and more then the usual scratch the surface of a usualy shallow pond already, tell me.

albeit i doubt you will watch MTV again....neither i of course